Yankees' pitching savant Masahiro Tanaka took the mound at historic Wrigley Field against Jason Hammel and the Chicago Cubs. The weather made for a sloppy and nasty affair and the Yankees lack of offense did nothing to brighten up the dreary atmosphere. It was ugliness all around.
All was quiet on the scoring front until the bottom of the third. John Baker led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Hammel. After a Tanaka wild pitch got Baker over to third, he scored on a hit by Emilio Bonafacio to make it 1-0 Cubs. They struck again in the fourth as Luis Valbuena led off with a double and scored after Mike Olt singled past Derek Jeter for a two-run lead. Baker then picked up a double and it looked like the Cubs had Tanaka on the ropes. But Hammel and Bonafacio put down consecutive safety squeeze bunts that Tanaka fielded and threw out the runner attempting to score at home. Two consecutive 1-2 putouts narrowly got Tanaka out of the inning without further damage. It was very kind of the Cubs to try to keep the Yankees in the game like that.
It took until the sixth for the Yankees offense to finally do something of note. Brett Gardner led off the inning with a double, but when it appeared he might be stranded out there Mark Teixeira got a clutch two-out single that split the difference and made the score 2-1 Cubs. However, the Yankees got sloppy in the bottom of the inning and gave the run back plus a spare. Valbuena and Nate Schierholtz led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Olt then hit a sacrifice fly that was caught by Gardner who threw a dead duck of a relay to Teixeira who nabbed the bouncer and chucked it into center field in an attempt to catch Scheierholtz tagging from first. With the free base Scheirholtz was able to score on a Baker flyout to make it 4-1.
Then in the seventh Joe Girardi opted to go to the shaky Preston Claiborne with the game very much still within reach for some reason. Claiborne rewarded Girardi's bold choice by pitching very poorly, allowing a leadoff triple to Bonafacio, issuing the ALWAYS prudent intentional walk to Rizzo and allowing a single to Starlin Castro. 5-1 Cubs and an end to Claiborne's night after getting only one out. Matt Thornton came in, got one out and hit a batter then gave way to Matt Daley who walked in a run to make it 6-1. Shocking that the IBB ended up being instrumental in a run scoring, right? That was all she wrote as the Yankees failed to cut into the lead and went out with a whimper.
It was a tough, uneven performance for Tanaka. He got bailed out by some bad baserunning and hurt by some shoddy fielding, but mostly he just left up too many hittable pitches for the Cubs lineup. The seven strikeouts to one walk was impressive, but eight hits (three of them doubles) over six innings is not that great. That being said, even Tanaka at his less than best kept the Yankees in the game, but it didn't matter much since the offense put in such a crummy effort against Hammel and the Cubs' bullpen. We must now accept that Tanaka is a mere imperfect mortal and settle for a season with one loss besmirching his record. Also, somebody please find the real Jacoby Ellsbury because the impostor that has replaced him can't hit a lick.
The teams finish up their two game set tomorrow at 2:20 EST. Chase Whitley and Jeff Samardzija are your probables.